PORTLAND — James Gerald Neva, 68, left us in spirit on Aug. 3, 2015, at Oregon Health Sciences University Hospital in Portland, Ore., with his family at his side after a 15-month battle with melanoma. Jim was born on July 2, 1947, in Centralia, Wash., to Gene and Betty Neva.
In 1968 he began his studies at St. Martin’s College in Olympia, Wash., where he met his wife Jeanette Alpeche Neva of Eleele, Kauai. Jim graduated from St. Martin’s College with a B.S. in Civil Engineering in 1972 and the couple moved to Shelton, Wash., where they lived until 1977. Jim and Jeanette then moved to Pacific County, where they spent the remainder of his years.
Early in his career, Jim worked in the Dept. of Public Works for Pacific County, the Pacific County Title Company, and as the Director of Public Works for the City of Westport in Grays Harbor County. Some of Jim’s greatest accomplishments, however, were during his time as a port manager. In 1991, Jim began a 12-year stretch as the Manager of the Port of Willapa Harbor and then moved on to the Marine Terminals Manager for the Port of Grays Harbor in Aberdeen. Finally, in 2006, Jim took a position as the Manager of the Port of Ilwaco. Jim was a tremendous advocate for the ports and local economy at the local, state and national level. About four years ago, he began lobbying for the federal government to restore dredging funds for small ports nationwide. He succeeded, and small ports now can compete for funds from a $41 million federal pool. Additionally, Jim was a very active leader in the community through membership to several councils, committees and organizations, including: Pacific County Economic Development Council, Pacific Council of Governments, Pacific County Technical Advisory Council, Willapa Marina Resource Committee, Washington Coastal Marine Advisory Council, Washington Public Ports Association, Pacific Coast Congress of Harbormasters, Washington Community Economic Revitalization Team, Columbia Pacific Resource Conservation and Development, and the Eagles and Elks.
Jim was known for his loving and outgoing personality. He was the epitome of a “people person.” He had a very strong work ethic and devoted much of his time toward leaving his mark on the local community. He was well respected and admired among his friends, colleagues and family for the person he was and the example he set for others. His friends and family knew Jim for his borderline inappropriate sense of humor that always left you laughing and smiling, while hoping he didn’t offend someone, unintentionally.
Above all else, Jim was a family man. He was a loving husband and father. He is survived by his wife of 43 years and two children. Jeanette is a retired teacher and principal of the Willapa Valley School District. His son, Bryce Neva, is a firefighter/paramedic for the city of Tucson and manager and instructor for the Public Safety and Emergency Services Institute of Pima Community College. His daughter, Janelle Aaker, is a Human Resources Director for Lululemon Athletica in Vancouver, BC. Jim also has seven grandchildren: Xzavier Neva, Alana Neva, Azrielle Neva, Braden Neva, Leila Aaker, Sofia Aaker and Beau Aaker. Jim’s sister, Sue Cowell, lives in Kelso. In his last weeks, Jim often spoke of how proud he was of his children and his other accomplishments in life.
Jim’s Celebration of Life will be at the Swiss Hall in Frances, Wash., on Aug. 30 from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Per his request, it will be a Hawaiian themed party with music from 1960-75. “I want a celebration, rather than a bunch of people sitting around with teary eyes. It’s not about being gone. It’s about when I was here.”